Japan has overwhelmed me

Just got back from Japan. The country has overwhelmed me and touched me with all its facets; modern technique versus centuries-old traditions. It is only when I return the last few days in Tokyo after our road trip through Hokkaido that I realize that all the more so.

Japan has overwhelmed me

Just got back from Japan. The country has overwhelmed me and touched me with all its facets; modern technique versus centuries-old traditions. It is only when I return the last few days in Tokyo after our road trip through Hokkaido that I realize that all the more so.

Japan has overwhelmed me

Just got back from Japan. The country has overwhelmed me and touched me with all its facets; modern technique versus centuries-old traditions. It is only when I return the last few days in Tokyo after our road trip through Hokkaido that I realize that all the more so.

Tokyo

Tokyo, the city where the journey began three weeks ago and which I was able to taste for 24 hours, is now rediscovering itself. We visit the Meiji Shrine with the beautiful garden. Here we see not only tourists, but also the Japanese after working hours and school children on school trip. Everyone writes down their wishes, throws a coin and rings the bell, hoping that all wishes and dreams may come true for them…
We walk across the Takeshita dori,‘the place to be’ for the young trendy Japanese; strolling along the Champs Elysee of Tokyo, the Omatesando Dori; dive into the side streets with nice little boutiques and end up at the famous intersection the Shibuya Crossing. While enjoying a glass of wine on the first floor we have a beautiful view of these organized people mass a mishmash of tourists and Japanese on their way home from school or work…

‘EVERYONE FOLDS CRANES AS A SIGN OF FREEDOM AND A NEW BEGINNING’

I go back in my mind to where the exploration of Japan began. After the first introduction to Tokyo, I travelled the Golden Route with a group of travel agents, i saw Hakone with a.o. a beautiful open-air museum, and Hiroshima has left an indelible impression after the visit to the Peace Park. In particular, the story of Sadako Sasiki, exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb, developed leukemia at the age of 12. During her illness she folded cranes, because a thousand cranes would make a wish come true… Unfortunately, she didn’t make the 100 and classmates finisheded her mission. To this day, schoolchildren, tourists and we too fold a crane, which we symbolically fly, as a sign of freedom and a new beginning.

‘ON MY SOCKS I GLIDE ACROSS THE FLOORS OF THE HIMEJI CASTLE’

We continue to Kyoto,the city that is well discovered by bike. By rickshaw we drive through the Bamboo Forest,where I finish my usual saturday morning run very early without the many tourists. By train I visit one of Japan’s most beautiful castles, Himeji Castle,one of the oldest surviving original buildings from the Sengoku period. On my socks I glide over the beautiful wooden floors of this castle. The day ends in Osaka where I enjoy the Japanese pancake, the ‘Okonomiyaka’, in a small Izakaya in the dotonbori nightlife district with a glass of Sochu.

‘WE ENJOY THE OVERWHELMING NATURE AT HOKKAIDO’

A domestic flight takes us to Sapporo,the capital of Hokkaido, a pleasant city to start our road trip with. This northernmost island in Japan is the easiest to discover by rental car. As soon as we leave the city behind, we notice the peace and the overwhelming nature. As one of the few Western tourists we are introduced to the Ainu, the original inhabitants of this island that has only been part of Japan since 1882, and its beautiful overwhelming nature. We visit the Daisetzuzan National Park with the many still active volcanoes with eternal snow, beautiful forests and lakes, where   you will be led along the way through a small Buddha statue to a special temple at   a waterfall. Here, too, we throw a coin and ring the bell, on good luck…

‘HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TRIP THROUGH HOKKAIDO IS SHIRETOKO NATIONAL PARK’

We immerse ourselves in Japanese bathing culture in the onsen , beautiful thermal baths,which men and women use strictly separately from each other. Pleasantly surprised we are at hotel Vista La Akangawa where in addition to the separated baths they also have a private family bath, a beautiful wooden bath overlooking the river. Also in the culinary field we enjoy plenty, fresh fish processed in the most delicious sushi and sashimi, grilled on charcoal or in the shabu shabu, both at dinner and our Western style Japanese breakfast… Highlight of our trip through Hokkaido is the visit to the Shiretoko National Park. 

In winter known for the crowning ice and habitat of the Stellar Eagle, in June and July for a short period visited by the orcas (‘killerwhale’). During a boat trip we become speechless, we can hear the orcas, gasping for breath to go straight back under. We do not need words for this either – we cannot understand the Japanese spoken – but the images speak for themselves: we have closed Japan in all its facets in our hearts.

‘I’VE GOTTEN TO KNOW JAPAN A BIT NOW, BUT I DEFINITELY WANT TO EXPLORE IT FURTHER’

Back to Tokyo, the hectic city of millions, we enjoy the people on the Shibuya Crossing and take a taxi to the Ebisu district. Here we remove our ‘windows’ from the wall and close our trip to the place where I met the life of the Japanese the first evening. After office time, with friends and colleagues eating and drinking at the Teppenyaki plate or at one of the many other food stalls that can be found there, of course while enjoying a Shochu we toast this beautiful, fascinating and mysterious country. I got to know it a little better now, but Japan has definitely invited me to explore further.

Carla Koetsier

With my passion and love for travel, I have been able to put together and sell many beautiful trips over the past 34 years and also be able to make and experience them myself. Every trip, every destination is unique, I enjoy the introduction to different cultures, beautiful landscapes but also the local cuisines. Besides South Africa, which after my first visit more than 20 years ago had conquered a very special place, my recent visit to Japan has also left an inseparable impression. Since April 2016 I have been working at Untamed Travelling to give you a great deal of fun - together with you - to shape your unique dream trip.

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